Southward, Ho!

Driving from Appleton, WI to Peoria, IL seems pretty straightforward.  Google Maps clocks it at a reasonable 4 hours and 57 minutes.  I was feeling pretty confident as I started my solo drive a week and a half ago (I was meeting Kevin and his family in Peoria for his brother, Keith’s college graduation from Bradley).  I had chosen to take a route that passed through Madison instead of Milwaukee and Chicago.  It seemed logical.

Things were going well during the first part of the drive.  The rain was gone, the sun had come out, the roads weren’t too busy, I passed through Madison as planned, and I seemed to be making good time.

My confidence was soon shattered when I realized that something was not quite right.  “Am I in IOWA?!  Did I just cross the Mississippi?  Is this some sort of short cut that I hadn’t noticed before?”

The answers to those questions are as follows:  Yes.  Yes.  No!

I did in fact end up in Iowa.  Dubuque to be exact.  To be fair, Dubuque is pretty much right on the border with Wisconsin and Illinois.  (That doesn’t make it sound much better, does it?)

Long story short, I took the scenic Iowa route (roughly 50 miles or so out of the way), and made it safe and sound (but later than expected) to Peoria.

I had a great time hanging out with Kevin and his family.  Even though the graduation ceremony was long, I really enjoyed it!  I have never heard such engaging speakers at a graduation before.  The first speaker had won like a bajillion speech awards, and had led the Bradley speech team to win a lot of speech things and stuff.  Basically… he was really awesome at speaking.  The commencement speaker was the dude who started priceline.com, which doesn’t necessarily sound that interesting, but this guy was kind of the bomb.  I was inspired.

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On the road again.

Our next stop after Peoria, was the Rustic Acres Campgrounds in New Douglas, IL.  It was a pretty funny place.  It quickly became clear that most of the people who use the campgrounds live there the whole 6 months or so that it’s open.  Everywhere we looked, there were RVs and campers with nice wooden porches attached, lawn decorations, bird feeders, and other things that made it obvious that the people there were not planning on packing up and moving on to a new place the next day like us.

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Rustic Acres

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“Why is the speed limit 5 1/2 mph instead of 5?”
“Well, we don’t want to slow you down too much!”

Something else that was pretty funny about good ole’ Rustic Acres, was that nearly everyone had a personalized golf cart that they drove around the property, which wasn’t huge, but it had the feel of a mini city.  So, it would only make sense for its inhabitants to drive mini cars.

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The newest citizens of Rustic Acres

We drove down to Kentucky next to visit my friend Lisa Ann in Louisville.  I’ve known Lisa Ann since she moved to New Jersey in 7th grade, and it’s been really cool seeing her turn into the person she is today.  She is teaching middle school science AND going to grad school.  I am pretty proud of her!

We enjoyed some great meals in and out with Lisa Ann and her boyfriend, Tyler.  The first night we were there, we all went out to a restaurant called Dragon King’s Daughter on Bardstown Road.  It was so delicious! They recommended that we walk down Bardstown Road the next day and check out some of the over 300 locally owned stores.  And check out we did.

The day we walked down Bardstown Road was the first day the weather was truly sweltering.  It was bloody hot.  We felt a little better when a local Louisvillian (is that what they’re called?) said that even he thought that it was shockingly hot.  I think that this was the day it truly hit us that we were in the South… and only going further south from there.

There are a lot of cool parks and green spaces in Louisville!  We visited three out of many: Cave Hill Cemetery, Cherokee Park, and Waterfront Park.  My favorite was Cherokee Park.  We probably could have explored it for days and never see the majority of it.

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Cherokee Park

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On a tree. On a trail. In Cherokee Park.

We also walked around the outside of Churchill Downs where the Kentucky Derby and other horse races are held.  My impressions were: It is big.  Only rich people go there.  The funny looking hats cost way too much money.

Kevin and I befriended Lisa Ann’s dogs, Jasper and Stanley.  Jasper was very personable and we became fast friends, but Stanley was a bit more standoffish.  It became my goal to befriend him, and I think I succeeded.  We even decided to name our car after him!  Is that weird? …yeah.

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Stanley is my homeboy.

PHEW this is a long blog post!  Just one more place to write about.  I promise.

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Check it out! I’m a real camper now!

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We’re camping!!!

Mammoth Cave National Park.  It’s sweet.  During all of our travels thus far, Kevin and I agree that camping has been the best part for us.  When we are camping, there are no worries other than building a fire, and pitching the tent (and not getting eaten by bears…though I have been assured by Kevin that this is not really a worry).  We enjoy life’s simple pleasures together, and relax.  It is rejuvenating… that is, until we wake up in the morning with a sore back from sleeping on a rock, or a stick… or something.

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Building a fire like a pro.

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Building a fire like an even better pro!

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I am small.

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I am tall.

The second day that we spent camping at Mammoth Cave was my birthday!  25!  What??!?!  Yup.  I’m an old lady now.  We celebrated by cooking up some classic foil packs over the campfire, making s’mores, drinking wine, and going on a cave tour!!

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birthday breakfast bacon baked beans

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Skeptical beans

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S’MORES!

We went on the “Historic Cave Tour,” which was in a 2-ish mile section of the roughly 400 miles worth of cave systems.  It was super cool!  There was no spelunking involved, but we did have to squeeze through “fat man’s misery,” which was no easy feat.  It was a balmy 54 degrees in the cave and dimly lit.  I can’t imagine exploring the caves with torches.  If you got lost… you were screwed!  Luckily, our brave guide led us through the cave like it was his job.

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Exiting the cave!

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The photos inside the cave are just black.

Alright guys, I’m pooped.  I think the mixture of the sun we’ve been getting and the pancakes we ate this morning have made me too sleepy to continue.

Until next time my loyal blog readers.

Peace out.

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